The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to deny the modified application for a neo-speakeasy themed cafe to operate out of an establishment located below a Chinese restaurant on Old Bridgeport Avenue.
The P&Z unanimously opposed the application for a “modern day version of a speakeasy” called, “HUSH It Up LLC.” because they deemed its intended use of the property to be restricted under the city’s current zoning regulations.
Residents and the commissioners alike, all became aware of the applicant’s plans to open HUSH LLC. in Shelton when a Facebook page for and rumors about the business circulated social media back in October.
Some residents were concerned that the business would feature adult entertainment.
P&Z Administrator Rick Schultz denied the initial application for the business on Tuesday, Nov. 7, even before it officially appeared before the P&Z at its scheduled Nov. 14 meeting.
The business would be located below Hunan Pan at 303 Old Bridgeport Avenue and the Sunwood condo community neighbors the property.
Owner of HUSH, Randi England, filed a second application with a modified statement of intended use that was reviewed and subsequently denied at the commission’s Dec. 19 meeting.
The P&Z also received a petition at the beginning of its meeting signed by 241 people opposed to the application.
Along with P&Z Chair Virginia Harger saying the application’s latest version of the property’s intended use is comparable to that of a theatre, which is prohibited at 303 Old Bridgeport Avenue as it is currently zoned, the city’s fire marshal also raised concerns of his own.
Fire Marshal James Tortora wrote a letter to be read by the commission at the meeting, in which he stated his concern for the limited number of parking spaces the business would offer.
The applicant’s attorney, Jonathan Klein, said the process in which his client’s application was processed by the commission was unfair because he hadn’t been provided enough time to review Tortora’s letter and therefor wasn’t able to adequately address the commission’s latest concerns.
The fire marshal’s letter letter was dated Dec. 6 said Klein said he hadn’t been made aware of it until the commission’s Tuesday, Dec. 19 meeting.
“For them to have the fire marshal’s comments for 13 days and not give me the opportunity to even be aware they exist, let alone see what they are and respond to them, I think it’s fair to call that being blindsided,” said Klein before restating that he was only made aware of the commission’s concerns with the intended use for the property.
During the meeting, Klein pleaded with the P&Z to grant he and his client more time to explain its additional concerns. Klein also explained to the commission that his client’s idea to create a speakeasy themed cafe had already been done in other cities within the state.
Regardless of Klein’s defense, the P&Z declined his request to keep the application open, but not before pointing out that it felt he should have come more prepared to stand before the commission.
“It’s totally insufficient for a professional job that’s supposed to be presented to us,” said Commissioner Tony Pogoda in reference to the unscaled diagram that attorney Klein brought along for his presentation to the P&Z. “We have a standing crowd of people here waiting for this meeting. We expect to have all this information presented to us properly with all the dimensions on here. This is a drawing a kid does.”
Klein questioned why Schultz and Tortora had initially signed off on England’s plans when she applied for a liquor permit in April, but now presented new concerns.
During Schult’z staff report which he read to the P&Z during its Dec. 19 meeting, he said he initially believed that the business “was going to be a standard cafe.”
England’s attorney said he plans to speak with his client to decide how to proceed with this application process. England is able to modify her application and submit it to the commission, once again.